NEW YORK (AP) -- The Associated Press will recognize the NFL's top assistant coach with a new award beginning this season, the news organization announced Wednesday.
The Assistant Coach of the Year award will be the AP's eighth NFL honor, joining MVP, Coach of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, and Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year.
A nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league will vote on all the awards, and the winners will be announced on Super Bowl eve. The award will be open to any assistant coach, from coordinators to position coaches to quality control coaches.
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, who spent a decade as an assistant coach in Baltimore before getting his current job, called the award ''a great idea, and overdue.''
''Every head coach is an extension of his staff,'' said Ryan, who won a Super Bowl as an assistant with the Ravens. ''That's the absolute truth. I don't care how good one man is, he can't get the job done without an outstanding set of assistant coaches. And this is a way to recognize them.
''There are a lot of great assistant coaches out there who deserve to be recognized.''
Every year since Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson won the award in 1990, the AP's Coach of the Year has served an apprenticeship on an NFL staff. That includes longtime assistants such as Dan Reeves, Dick Jauron and Marvin Lewis.
In 2012, Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians replaced the ill Chuck Pagano early in the season as an interim head coach and led the Colts to the AFC South title. Pagano won the AP Coach of the Year.
He parlayed that success into his first NFL head coaching gig, guiding the Arizona Cardinals to a turnaround 10-6 record last season.
Arians is the only interim to win Coach of the Year.
''This kind of award can spark other things for a coach in his career,'' Ryan said of the new assistant coach award. ''It gives these guys a platform and an owner takes notice, gets to know this guy and his work. This is a big deal.''
Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who served on staffs with the Eagles, Packers and Giants, knows exactly what makes a good assistant coach.
''You want people who are goal-oriented, who aspire to improve their lot and be in a position to have greater responsibility,'' Coughlin said. ''But it always gets back to Square 1: You are happy only when your players and your unit and your team performs well.
''It's important that they are being evaluated by their ability to motivate and to teach and coach and create an environment where they can perform to the best of their ability, and in turn, so does the team.''
This is the first new award the AP will be handing out since 1998, when the first Comeback Player of the Year honor was won by Buffalo quarterback Doug Flutie. Most of the other AP awards date back to the 1950s and '60s.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL .